PETER SCHMEICHEL spent his career taking the road less well travelled. He was 28 by the time he signed for Manchester United in 1991, an age not considered old for a goalkeeper but certainly uncommon for one moving to a club of such stature.

Yet, the great Dane would go on to win 11 trophies during an eight-year stay at Old Trafford that included the Champions League victory over Bayern Munich in 1999. That win in Barcelona capped a spell laden with major honours that had started at the end of Schmeichel's first season in England. He had lifted the League Cup following a 1-0 victory over Nottingham Forest in what was a pre-cursor to events that summer when Denmark would overcome the odds to win EURO 92 in Sweden.

Having finished second in their qualifying group, the Danes were not even meant to feature in those finals but when the Balkan War broke out they were inserted as late replacements for Yugoslavia and eventually went on to lift the trophy in sensational fashion, knocking out holders the Netherlands in the semi-finals before defeating world champions Germany in the final.

For Schmeichel, it capped a journey that had literally begun eight years earlier when the Danes reached the semi-finals against Spain in France.

“When I think back to the EUROs and when I first discovered the tournament, I have to think back to 1984,” says Schmeichel today. “I had just started playing as a semi-professional footballer in Hvidovre. Denmark took part in that tournament and played fantastically.

“Me and my friends said that if Denmark got to the semi-finals, we had to go and see it live in France where it was being played. Denmark made it into the semi-finals and were up against Spain in Lyon. The only way for us to get tickets for the game was through a bus company. So we took a 20-hour trip by bus to Lyon. We spent three hours in Lyon before the game.

"We saw the game but, unfortunately, Denmark lost and we headed home just after [which was] 20 hours again. I arrived home at nine or 10 o’clock in the morning and, that evening, I had a cup game myself with my club Hvidovre against Brondby. We lost that game 7-0 and I am sure that the bus journey had some sort of negative impact on my performance. When I think of my first EUROs, that game is my first memory and also how amazing Denmark played in that tournament.”

For Schmeichel and his friends defeat that day appeared a missed opportunity one of the best sides on the planet in the 80s. When Denmark exited the Mexico World Cup in the second round in 1986 again at the hands of Spain, the country believed the team containing luminaries such as Michael Laudrup, Morten Olsen, Soren Lerby and Preben Elkjaer had missed its chance. And then came the European Championship finals in Sweden.

“Winning Euro 1992 was an enormous highlight in my career, no doubt about that. In 1984 in France and the World Cup in Mexico in 1986, we had a great team that could have gone all the way and won the tournament,” recalls Schmeichel. “We could have been world champions with a bit of luck and we still think about that. Due to the fact that it did not happen and the guys from those teams were too old to play football at that high level, we thought that Denmark would never win anything.”